Sunday, August 14, 2016

Back to school

New school year.

I met my 22 homeroom students this morning during our annual "drop off supplies and visit with the teachers" Sunday morning. School starts Tuesday for real, but this allows parents to get all that stuff in the door and off their hands, kids can see their desks (or in my room, find out that I don't assign desk, just lockers and cubbies) and maybe be put at ease a bit.

New school year.

I met a new student who had been told that I had grown up in a military family. It's a common misconception because I moved every two years. I corrected it, but the facts were still the same. I got it, I told the mom.

"I was new in 6th grade and then in 8th and the middle of 9th."

"Then you get it," she nodded. She introduced me to her husband and her daughter, and all of that was fine. It's fine. I felt bad for the girl, who reminded me just a shade of myself in middle school, only because I knew that detail of course, because she hid her anxiety well. I know she has it, though, because of course she does. And it had been passed to me by the secretary already. Take care of this one.

This is my 4th year at this school, which is the longest I've worked anywhere. The only reason I stayed, at first, was to rebuild my very checkered resume. At this point I stay for a lot of reasons, almost all of them heart ones, but it is hard to stay in one place, even now. Even always. Even forever.

I think part of what allows me to stay is that every school year is its own little mini life. It is new every August, even if my desk is the same and my view of the concession stand and soccer field is unchanged. Not only do I usher in a new generation of 6th graders, bringing them as gently as I can into the realities of middle school, but the 7th graders and 8th graders are changed as well. Even though the parents have a mental image of who I am now and what that means for their child in my class, their children are new again to me because summer changes us.

Summer changes everything. It is subtle, but the changes are there. Girls' faces change. Boys get taller or start shaving. People get bolder, more comfortable, or alternatively, feel unstable where they stand. Summer changes them. Some are glad to be back and some are counting the days to Christmas break. Either way, these taller, tanner, more experienced young people stop by my room and wave at me and it feels new.

And so I can stay. The life around me can change now and I stand there letting it wear down my sharp edges. I look in the mirror in the faculty bathroom and smile, the crows feet around my eyes making me look like maybe I'll be ok, I'll be safe to approach, I'll be the teacher they need.

I put up my pictures and set out my pencils. I shook folks' hands and showed them how to work the lockers. They wished me luck and I told the students I'd see them Tuesday.

I hope it's a good year.

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